EVOLVE Wrestling presents
January 9th, 2015
Ybor City, FL

EVOLVE/DGUSA seemed to disappear in late 2014. Besides the tour in China I did not hear much about the promotion. What little I did hear was not positive. With nothing to lose and everything to gain EVOLVE needed a good show to build some momentum going into the new year.

Johnny Gargano opened the show with a gracious promo thanking the fans for their support in 2014.  Gargano proceeded to introduce an intriguing concept.  Newcomers to the promotion will now be endorsed by a member of the roster to gain entry to the promotion. This brought out Rich Swann who reminded Garagno about their Ronin days. Swann reminisced about how the veterans of that time period tried to keep them down. He then stated that he wanted to give an opportunity to Shane Strickland and promptly brought the King of Swerve. Seized by the spirit of the moment the Open the Freedom Gate Champion offered the CZW mainstay a shot at the gold.

Open the Freedom Gate Championship Match – Shane Strickland vs. Johnny Gargano ©: Giving Strickland a title match right away was a nice gesture to get the new talent initiative over. I am not sure that Strickland ended up getting over though. He looked awkward tussling with Gargano and abandoned much of the flashy offense he is best known for. The end result was a slow affair that never got going. Cleveland’s favorite son picked up the win with a Gargano Escape to retain his title.

A plodding opener that would have benefitted from a brisker pace. **½

After the match, Moose speared Gargano out of his boots. The Bravado Brothers crept out of the crowd and vowed to make Johnny Wrestling’s life miserable.

Biff Busick vs. Trevor Lee: I was afraid the show’s meandering pace would continue in the second match when an extended period of grappling opened the contest. Thankfully, Busick and Lee brought the heat as the match went along. Busick lit up Lee’s face with some brutal open handed chops and a sickening lariat. Lee impressed me with his quickness and striking ability. Biff picked up the win with Minoru Suzuki’s takeover Sleeper Hold.

Gabe Sapolsky needs to give these men more time and a higher place on the card. Magic will happen if he does. Until then I will have to be satisfied with this bittersweet little match. ***

The Bravado Brothers vs. AR Fox and Uhaa Nation: A strange thought occurred to me while watching this match. The WWE needs to sign The Bravado Brothers. Before you accuse me of losing my mind envision this, Bo Dallas and the Bravados as stable of oblivious dopes. Folks, that has comedy gold written all over it.

In their current state, Harlem and Lancelot were surprisingly solid in this match and looked like they belong in the ring with tremendous talents like Fox and Nation. Kudos to Grandma Bravado’s boy for continuing to improve. Fox and the Orlando bound Nation killed it with their bevy of crazy spots. Uhaa Nation’s strength and flying skill for a man his size makes him a talent with scary upside. In the end Fox and Nation took the win after a very good closing stretch, but like Johnny Gargano earlier in the night they were laid out by Moose.

A nice surprise of a match with The Bravados showing a good deal of competency in the ring. ***¼.

Timothy Thatcher vs. Ricochet: Sometimes slow is good. Sometimes slow is very good. Thatcher and Ricochet may not have engaged in a sprint but their methodical match was a cool drink of water.

Thatcher’s technical prowess was as good as advertised. As he worked over Ricochet’s arm, I noticed he did not gravitate from hold-to -hold. He stomped and slammed that arm in a manner that would make Verne Gagne give the thumbs up. I especially enjoyed how to keep control of the match he peppered his opponent with stiff European Uppercuts rather than rest holds.

Ricochet showed his continued evolution into one of the most well rounded wrestlers in the world. Faced with a good amount of time on the mat my fellow Kentuckian softened up Thatcher’s mid-section with strategic elbows and punches. All this paid off when the impact of a Shooting Star Press caused enough damage to Thatcher’s middle for the three count.

An excellent technical match and the first great match in the United States for 2015. ****

Ten Minute Ironman Match: Anthony Neese vs. Rich Swann: So Cal Val offered her managerial services to Neese and the rest of the Premiere Athlete Brand before the match.

Swann and Neese successfully crammed a lot into ten minutes. Neese fell victim to an early roll up and had to play catch up the rest of the contest. As the seconds ticked by a desperate Neese destroyed Swann’s knee with a chair. Go out of your way to see Swann’s sell job. Anyways, Neese lost a fall but gained one moments later when Swann submitted to a Half Crab. That was not enough to win as Swann survived the late onslaught to win the match 2 falls to 1.

A Moose/Bravado attack seemed imminent after the bell until Johnny Gargano made the save. He asked Swann to partner with him against the antagonistic trio. Swann accepted but only on the condition that Chuck Taylor come to Florida to reform Ronin.

This match was better than it had any right to be considering the stipulation. ***

Roderick Strong vs. Drew Galloway: The main event went everywhere. Strong and Galloway chopped each other on top of the bar. They brawled all the way into the street! Galloway even asked some lucky fans to hold Strong while he unleashed some lethal chops to the chest. As soon as both combatants hit the ring, chairs became involved and the ref called the match at that point.

I cannot fathom a few things about this match. First, Drew Galloway is a changed man in the ring. His intensity is off the charts and he was just as good as the very talented Roderick Strong. Second, brawls all over the arena rarely work for me. But for an independent match it is a nice change in direction and took this feud to a whole other level. A rematch needs to happen soon because these two have great chemistry.

A hell of a brawl and one of the few times a non-finish makes sense. ***¾

Final Thoughts: EVOLVE 36 flew by. Besides the opener there is not a bad bout on this card. Trevor Lee vs. Biff Busick may be the best second match you will see during the early part of the year. Ricochet and Timothy Thatcher put on a technical clinic that even Joe Lanza would enjoy and a hot brawl ended a solid night of wrestling. For one night, it seems that Gabe and company have some fire in their bellies. Future shows will tell, though. whether this show is the beginning of something or an anomaly. Regardless, the first major independent show of 2015 was a lot of fun and gets my stamp of approval.